What’s the framework for our learning?


In this relatively recent presentation Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy which started out with Sal creating videos to help his nephew with his math homework.

Here Sal talks about why he invented Khan Academy

This is not to suggest this is the only way, rather it is another way to learn.  I wonder if each of us pondered about something we’d like to learn to do, a craft, a trade, a simple skill, what are the variables and resources involved with us learning whatever it is we desire to learn?

What factor does time play in your learning? How will you assess that learning? Who are the teachers for what you want to learn?  More questions than answers in this post and that’s ok.  I’m interested in hearing stories about something you wanted to learn, something you wanted to master and how you went about achieving that goal.




Edwin Markham wrote:

“He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!

Mother Teresa stated, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

In On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee wrote, “It is ‘where we are’ that should make all the difference, whether we believe we belong there or not.”

The author of the the Allegiant series, Veronica Roth wrote, “I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.”

How do we decide who belongs?

In stores and books, and it seems in life as well we tend to sort and categorize put items in a box, and maybe people…is that ok? How can it change?  Consider this video post by Prince Ea


Differentiated Learning IS Rigorous Work…

One of our key tenets is to support the learning experience for all students with an eye to raising the individual and collective bar in instruction, learning, and assessment. These efforts should be made to create the most inclusive of classrooms where all students feel an authentic sense of belonging and are supported in their learning.

While many consider conversations around inclusive education to focus on meeting needs of students identified with particularly learning disabilities the fact is the net for a truly inclusive education system is cast far further with consideration for race, gender, culture, gender identify, basically any effort required to best meet the learning needs of ALL students across the entire spectrum.

An inclusive system requires ongoing learning by the professionals in the system and levels of collaboration that provide opportunities for everyone in the school community to explore the data, ask questions about the gaps that are identified and work to improve the learning experience for all students.

An inclusive education system should challenge our thought process around streaming – particularly at the high school level.  Are we doing all we can to support students reaching and stretching – is that assistance universal?

Much of the reading that has been shared over the past several years ultimately has the potential to support efforts to be both inclusive and rigorous in providing the best possible education/learning experience.

In contemplating rigor Tony Wagner shares some thoughts specifically challenging the notion that it’s more work or “harder work” rather it’s better thinking, better questioning strategies, better evaluation methodologies.

Sources and Resources:

Edutopia’s Sept 2015 post – Round-up of Differentiated Instruction Resources

Larry Ferazzio is an active blogger and educator he has compiled a number of resources to support differentiated instruction including posts, articles, and video clips from folks like Rick Wormeli and Carol Ann Tomlinson.

Carol Ann Tomlinson has compiled a list of books, articles and videos – you can access those materials here.

Books on my list:

Anything from Carol Ann Tomlinson

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David Sousa’s work on differentiation and the brain – some repetition across the series but interesting differences across the spectrum

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Labels – can we scrub them and move forward?

At the core of an inclusive society, community, school, classroom,  is a core belief in equality. Our attitudes, our thoughts, our words and our actions all feed into how we treat each other, work with each other and support each other in being the best we are capable of becoming.  When I ponder our classrooms how quickly do we want to fall to labels while somewhat losing sight of the individual. Regardless of who we are, what we look like, what we believe, we have much more in common than what we often sadly allow to divide and separate.

Ponder this first then consider the video:

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Collaborative Problem Solving -CPS

One of our regular presenters at our Education Assistants Conference is Kent Hollingsworth who does an excellent job presenting on CPS and the principles of rethinking our approach to students presenting challenging behaviors.  At the root of this training is the work initially done together by Dr. Stuart Ablon and Dr. Ross Greene.

When working together Dr. Ablon and Dr. Greene co-wrote “Treating Explosive Kids: The Collaborative Problem-Solving Approach.  Dr. Greene has gone on to write “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School” (we have placed dozens of copies of Lost at School in the hands of teachers, administration and education assistants over the last couple of years).

As is sometimes the case collaborators move on to develop their own programs and expertise but we are provided with access to the combined wisdom of both authors and researchers and some of that information is included below.

Dr. Ablon’s Think:Kids Rethinking Challenging Kids Website can be accessed here and has a wide range of references, video links and research articles to consider.

Dr Ablon’s model for a checklist and inventory of problems to be solved – skill deficit and challenging behaviour can be viewed here.

Dr. Ablon speaking at TedX :Rethinking Challenging Kids – Where There’s a Skill There’s a Way.

Dr. Greene’s perspective on this work can be accessed at two websites.

The first is the Center for Collaborative Problem Solving it contains links to articles and information on the two books mentioned above by Dr. Greene.

The second site contains more hands on information, videos, and resources tied to Dr. Greene’s non-profit organization, Lives in the Balance.

Much like Dr. Ablon’s checklist above Dr. Greene has developed a sheet entitled Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems which is referred to as the ALSUP. He also provides a Problem Solving Plan (formerly referred to as Plan B flowchart) Plan B is fundamental to Dr. Greene’s approach to working with students.

Dr. Greene also maintains a youtube channel with a series of videos that outline his approach to working with students. I’ve included the first video from that website below.

Dr. Greene “Kids do well if they can”




2016 Westwind Education Assistant Conference Feedforward

Thank you for your participation in the EA Conference day in Magrath. Here is the link to the survey for you to provide your thoughts on the day, the sessions, any suggestions for sessions next year and this year your thoughts on any of the sessions which you feel we should also find a way for teachers to experience.

Click on this link 

Have a great balance of the year.

As promised the slides from the opening are shared here, once again my thanks to those “Yellow dots” for their active participation in the session.


Through what lens

It was my hope to present a few thoughts that might invite us to reflect upon our perceptions, point of view or lens in terms of how we view the students and team with whom we work.  I’ve included the PDF file of my keynote slides for you here and some of the resources I referred to as well. Thank you so much for all that you do for our students and their families.

EA conf 2016 Opening Thoughts

TParaprofessional's Handbookhe two student comparison slides are referenced to chapter 5 Rethinking Thinking Students – Presuming Competence in the book “The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms” This has previously be shared with your principals and copies of the book are available in your schools. Dr. Julie Causton has written a series of these books including one for administrators that every school has received as well.  Well worth taking the time to read.


“Failure is not an option” video clip and book

Failure is notI really do enjoy that orange “Failure is not an Option” shirt from the Johnson Space Center in Houston – the teacher who picked it up for me, may have had a tongue in cheek to begin with but proved to be an excellent leader for his department of 8 science teachers challenging them to retain 100% of their students through the semester and get everyone through. Adapt – Modify- Accommodate and collaborate he got it.  The principles behind Failure is not an Option – the Book – are extremely aligned with the Professional Learning Community model – think about it in the movie and real life – is it really better to have people try to solve complex challenges in isolation? Nope – share, challenge, support… Whenever I watch this clip I ask myself which of these team members best represents me today – focused on excuses, roadblocks, reasons it will fail or focused on solutions, strengths, what I have on hand – I’m reminded of this positive mindset with the recent movie “The Martian” by the way – excellent for creative thinking and applied learning strategies.


Above the LineThe “R” Factor related slides are drawn from the book, “Above the Line: Lessons in leadership and life” by Urban Meyer , this may come to a surprise to some of you but that is a football book (I have been blessed to coach over 50 football teams in my life) but a book with so many outstanding lessons in terms of guiding our thoughts, words and responses and the six key “R-Factor” elements is one of those great points.  The slide on “Reaches and Reps” draws from the same book – anyone who’s ever been on a team, or part of a play/acting, can or should be able to relate to pushing yourself to reach beyond what you thought you could and rep what you need to perfect.  I remind myself it isn’t practice that makes perfect it’s working toward perfect practice that leads to perfection.

DecisiveI am particularly fond of the notion of Bookending as presented by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. The idea of planning the parade, particularly when you can engage the student and family in the planning of that parade really speaks to a vision for success and helps commit each other to working toward that achievement – fall a bit short, stumble a little along the way what should you do, I like to occasionally (emphasis added)  listen to grade 5 and 6 band so that when I hear the award winning marching band I can remember the stumbles that led to the great parade. Bookending anticipates a little what could go sidewise reducing the shock and potential disappointment to a we anticipated this moment now let’s move along.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.33.59 AM.pngFinally a new book (to me) that I referred to briefly but did not have a slide in the presentation “Learning outside the lines” by Jonathan Mooney (the student I referred to) and David Cole.  Jonathan writes, “Don’t feel bad. There is a special talent locked in the mind of the unusual learner. The trick is to unlock it. This book can help you do just that” well even if all it does is change our mindset and vision just a bit that can help but it’s proven quite good so far.  A warning Jon and his family are fond of words in the English language that not everyone uses quite a liberally but like Ido sometimes expressing the frustration of what has been forced upon you and your children might lead to more colourful language than we might expect.  Jon also wrote, “What has gone unrecognized for centuries is that this unusual learner is not stupid, neither is he bad. Indeed, he may be gifted. He carries within his mind the cognitive equivalents of genetic mutations, the ability to recombine elements of experience in new ways.” An interesting point to ponder.